Discovered in 1980 , nanocellulose is a nanomaterial derived from cellulose, the most abundant organic polymer on Earth and the major ingredient in organic waste streams. It is composed of nanofibers which are smaller than the width of a human hair, making it extremely lightweight . It is also 4 times stronger than stainless steel and is a highly versatile material that can be used in a variety of applications, from medical to industrial. Its sustainability and biodegradability make it an attractive option for a variety of industries, and its lightweight and strong properties make it ideal for a variety of applications.
In recent years, Harvest Nano, a Michigan-based science business startup, has been exploring ways to recycle nanocellulose from human sewage, dairy farms, and other organic and agricultural waste resources. We see waste as an important unused resource – not a burden. Recycling nanocellulose from organic waste is an important step in creating a more sustainable future, it is likely that recycled nano cellulose will become an increasingly important part of our future.
We are targeting the plastic market, a ~$600 billion market with less than 1% of products being made from biodegradable materials [2,3]. Plastic manufacturers are facing increasing demand for lightweight, cost-effective, environmentally friendly products but have few alternatives. Natural Nanocellulose Compositions are a good alternative (e.g., have better properties than fossil fuel-based polymers, which dramatically improve the strength/weight ratios of many materials, polymers, pulp and resins using reinforced polymer composites) but their current high prices make them unviable for most manufacturers.
Once the organic waste has been collected and nanocellulose has been produced, it can be used to create biodegradable plastics and 3D resins, which can be used to replace traditional plastics in a variety of applications. For instance, nanocellulose can be used to create biodegradable packaging materials and to create car parts, biodegradable fabrics and other composite materials.
Harvest Nano’s mission is to lead a change in the Nanocellulose Composition market, transforming it from a rare expensive material (currently over $400 per pound) to a more affordable and available commodity manufactured from waste, creating value to the bioplastic and 3D print industry by offering a better natural biodegradable biopolymer at a competitive price. Waste owners/processors can also benefit by saving money on waste management and gaining additional income from CO2 credits. By recycling waste, turning it back into salable products and reducing its GHG emissions, environmental value and a circular economy are created.
The effects of waste and wastewater on groundwater, the environment, and lakes can be devastating. Waste and wastewater can contain pollutants such as heavy metals, organic compounds, and other contaminants that can seep into the ground and contaminate groundwater, lakes, and other bodies of water, which can have a negative impact on the environment and the health of the people living in the area. Recycling nanocellulose from human sewage, dairy farms and other organic waste, which are hardly recycled today, is an important step in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. This can help improve the quality of water in lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water, as well as improve the health of our soils and groundwater.
While we commonly consider fossil burning processes the core of the global warming problem, we should not overlook the greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by waste from food and other agricultural industries. The cattle industry alone contributes about 15% of the GHG produced annually while human sludge contributes approximately another 18% [4,6]. Most of the liquid waste solids turn into sludge that is landfilled or dumped into oceans. When organic materials are sent to landfills, they begin to rot anaerobically and release GHG, primarily methane (CH4). The impact of methane on climate change is greater than carbon dioxide (CO2) [5,6]. The rotting organic matter mixes with heavy metals and other chemicals from electronics in landfills and creates a toxic sludge. Eventually, these underground toxins can make their way into the water supply.
Recycling nanocellulose from agricultural waste (e.g., cider mills, dairy farms) and human sewage is an important step in reducing our environmental impact. These types of waste streams are rarely recycled, and yet they have the potential to be a valuable and profitable resource. By extracting highly valuable resources from sewage and other waste streams, we can create new jobs and profitable recycling businesses. Sewage and waste mining is a great way to reduce our environmental impact and help to create a more sustainable future.
The smart way to handle organic biowaste is by recycling it, saving costs of waste management operations, and creating a new circular economy. For example, from each 1600 cow’s dairy farm waste, ~300 tons of nanocellulose can be produced each year, saving waste related costs of about $420,000 per year while becoming a sustainable farm and gaining carbon credit. Every ton of animal biowaste results in a corresponding reduction of 50m3 CH4.
Nanocellulose is an excellent natural material with amazing properties. By recycling nanocellulose from organic waste, we can reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills, reduce our carbon footprint, and create a more sustainable future. Recycled nanocellulose is a promising material for the future due to its unique properties, high value and potential applications.
- Turbak., A.F., Snyder, F.W., & Sandberg, K.R. (1983). Microfibrillated cellulose, a new cellulose product: Properties, uses, and commercial potential. Journal of Applied Polymer Science: Applied Polymer Symposium, 37(9), 815-827.
- Harper, C.A. & Petrie, E.M. (2003). Plastics materials and processes: A concise encyclopedia. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/0471459216
- Zhongnan Jia, M. (2020). Biodegradable plastics: Breaking down the facts. Greenpeace East Asia. https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-eastasia-stateless/84075f56-biodegradable-plastics-report.pdf
- Prescient & Strategic Intelligence. (2021). Polymer market research report: By type, base material, application – Global industry analysis and growth forecast to 2030.
- Coussy, P. (2017). Global overview of carbon pricing economic tools. Energies Novelles. https://www.ifpenergiesnouvelles.fr/article/panorama-mondial-des-outils-economiques-tarification-carbone
- Trove Research (2021). Future demand, supply and prices for voluntary carbon credits – Keeping the balance. https://trove-research.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Trove-Research-Carbon-Credit-Demand-Supply-and-Prices-1-June-2021.pdf
Harvest Nano is the first to transform problematic organic waste into Nanocellulose compositions while reducing environmental damages and generating significant economic benefits.
Left: Nanocellulose from organic waste; Right: Products from Dairy farm waste: Sand, Bedding (cellulose) and Nanocellulose
About the Author:
Dr. Refael Aharon, Founder and CEO, Harvest Nano
Dr. Aharon is one of the world’s leading pioneers for extracting materials and for finding uses from problematic waste resources. He is an inventor, entrepreneur, and scientist with extensive experience developing, building, and operating machinery for waste management and nanocellulose extraction. He has over 15 years of sewage mining, with experience in managing teams of engineers and scientists.
About Harvest Nano:
Founded in 2022, Harvest Nano, Inc., develops IP, proprietary technologies, equipment and processes for converting organic waste to nanocellulose compositions (NCCs) in order to meet a growing shortage and demand for cost-effective bioplastic alternatives while providing zero waste solutions.
Harvest Nano is pioneering novel waste reuse practices and intends to transform current nanocellulose and bioplastic production methods. The Harvest Nano’s team consists of engineers, scientists, polymer experts, IP and legal professional. We are seeking grants, investors and partners to build commercial units that will extract nanocellulose and other highly valuable products from organic waste.
CGLR’s business and sustainability network programming is supported by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.